Encouraging independent learning out of class


At my school we have an ‘attitude to learning’ scale which, for the top level, students are required to work independently.

Initially they’re not going to do this without guidance so I’ve been encouraging them in a couple of ways.

Firstly, for each topic, I aim to provide ‘optional’ homework which aims to extend the topic.

One of these is giving students a list of video clips and podcasts that link into the topic.

videos example

They can choose any videos they want. To help them I have added the clip length and created a * rating in terms of difficulty. This helps with differentiation for them. * is a simple, easy watch and ***** I have defined as A’ Level and University level.

The second thing I have done at key stage 3 is to include it in our assessment system, as ‘Independent Research’ (IR).


I’ve divided it up for them to develop their skills in IR. This ensures they don’t think that just bringing in a sheet printed from Wikipedia is sufficient.

To encourage them, I have also trialled posting their assessment task on Showmyhomework from day 1 of the topic. This gives them time to research and look up sources they might use.

When they complete this assessment I tell them to write IR in the margin next to the part that shows they have done IR (or use the purple highlighter to circle this work).

So far, about 1/3 of students have completed and used IR in their work. Interestingly a few students have brought in new information but failed to use it in their work. I need to ensure that they understand how to use it. I also need to do a couple of IR lessons in each year group to help them develop these skills.

I have some things that I need to consider further…

  • The whole point of an attitude to learning of 1 is that they are independent. I won’t always know when they’ve done this. Should I record it? So far I can only tell if they include it in their work or mention it in class discussion. I’ve tried to remind students that an attitude of 1 could include these things but then I’ve guided them so it’s not truly independent.  Should I try and find out if they’ve done something truly independent?
  • I definitely need to plan some decent research lessons however when you see students once a week that becomes tough. I need to get students to develop appropriate internet search skills and critical thinking
  • Referencing – I’ve been encouraging my key stage 3 students to always reference any sources they used. I really need to add this to the IR assessment box. Sadly, the GCSEs don’t need this but A level will; part of the lack of skills development at GCSE to A level.

If you use any strategies for independent learning it would be great to hear.


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